I bought an Insta-Pot during the Amazon Prime summer sale days. It seemed like a good idea — I’d wanted one for a while and I figured it could replace my slow cooker and give me some additional functionality for life on the road. But when it came and I tried to fit it into Serenity, it started looking like an expensive mistake.
Not my first — I bought an Amazon Tap on impulse when I meant to buy a Dot and purchased a very expensive tire-pressure monitoring system before reading the manual and discovering that tire-pressure monitoring was built-in to the Dodge system. Oops.
Fortunately, those were easily returned, but the insta-pot decision wasn’t so clear. After all, I had wanted one and I do feel like I need a slow cooker. But it’s big. Really big. It doesn’t fit in the over-cab space (not that I would put something that potentially dangerous there anyway – death by Insta-Pot during a fast stop is not how I want to go.) It doesn’t fit in any of the cabinets or in the limited under-the-bed space. In fact, the only place I can store it is inside the wardrobe. Apart from that, it would have to sit out on the floor and that’s sort of the same problem as the overhead space — leaving heavy objects out to fly around the van while you’re driving is not the greatest idea. It probably wouldn’t kill me from the floor, but in a 50mph collision with B and the Insta-Pot, B would lose. Squashed dog would be heartbreaking.
So the question was: do I want to give up my precious wardrobe space to a pressure cooker? I decided to answer by trying the insta-pot out as quickly as possible.
The first thing I made was a lemon chicken recipe using chicken thighs. It was… eh. Acceptable, but I could bake chicken thighs in the convection oven just as easily and they would taste just as good, maybe better because they get crispy. Admittedly, they would take a lot longer and heat up the van a lot more, but still, the chicken thighs were not a selling point.
Next I tried hard-boiled eggs. Wow. It is incredibly easy to make absolutely perfect hard-boiled eggs using an Insta-Pot. Five minutes, no mess, no heating a pan over the propane stove, and the eggs were truly perfect, exactly the way I like them.
However, have I mentioned the preciousness of my wardrobe space? I need shoes, ones with toes, and a winter coat, and maybe some rain gear. All of those things, once I get them, are going to need to be stored somewhere. I’d like to try going to the occasional writer’s conference: that would require professional(-ish) attire, which again, would have to be stored somewhere. Cleaning supplies, the screen door for the back, towels, the shower curtain, dog food, tools… there is a lot of stuff competing for that precious, precious storage space. Perfect hard-boiled eggs are not good enough to warrant giving it up to a pot. A big pot.
Today, I decided to try again. I bought two bone-in chicken breasts at the store, figuring I could cook them, then use the bones to make a small amount of stock. But when I tried to find a recipe that made sense, I failed. I should have looked for the recipe before going to the store instead of after. Alas. But I’m used to having a lot of staple ingredients, including a fully stocked spice cabinet, on hand.
Of course, not having a recipe never deters me. I decided to improvise. I did wonder, while I was mixing up a marinade of Marie Sharp’s Exotic Sauce (which I brought from the house and need to use up), balsamic vinegar, a generous handful of cilantro, and several chopped shallots, whether I was setting up the Insta-Pot to fail. Talk about a random marinade! But I marinated the chicken in the above for an hour, then sautéed it for a few minutes on the saute setting, then added a little bit of chicken broth, probably 1/4 cup, and used the poultry setting to cook it. When it was done, I took it out, measured the liquid — about a cup — and cooked a cup of jasmine rice in a 1:1 ratio with the liquid.
But I couldn’t wait for the rice. The chicken smelled so good! I kept stealing tiny bites of it, trying to figure out why/how it was so delicious. Was it the exotic sauce? The cilantro? The chicken wasn’t overwhelmed by the marinade, but it was infused with the flavors of the other ingredients. I could taste them — a little bit of a tang, that green bitterness of cilantro, the subtle kick of shallots — in each bite of moist, falling apart, yet fully-cooked chicken. It was ridiculously good.
When the rice finished, I added some dried cranberries — which probably would have been even better if I’d added them during the cooking — and a sprinkle of salt and ate. And ate. And ate. I had to force myself to stop when I was past full because I kept wanting just one more bite. I can’t remember the last time I over-ate. Which is not a particularly good selling point in the insta-pot’s favor, really, but I don’t suppose I should blame it too much for that.
The debate’s not over for me: my fridge is not big enough to store lots of leftovers and I can’t freeze extra ingredients. I may eventually decide that a diet of mostly salads and cold foods just makes the most sense for life in a van. But oh, I do regret the time I spent wondering if an Insta-Pot was really worth $120. If you have the room to store it, the answer is yes, yes, yes. And if you follow that link above, the price (at the time I write this, anyway) is only $70. Totally worth it! (It’s not an affiliate link — I don’t get any money if you buy it — so if you know anyone who uses affiliate links on their site, go visit their site, find an Amazon link, follow the link and then search on Insta-Pot, so they’ll get a few dollars from the sale. Yes, I have been learning about affiliate links recently!)
In other news, I’m hanging out in Gettysburg. I failed to go to a museum of agriculture and industry today. I felt like I should, since I was close and I’m traveling and museums are worthwhile… and then I remembered that my goal with this life is not to be a tourist, but to live simply. And to write. So far the writing is not going well, but maybe being very well-fed will be inspirational. 🙂